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Parallel Secrets: Debut Mystery

Parallel Secrets: the debut mystery by ML Barrs

Author Interview + Book and Author Info + Author Pet Corner!

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Parallel Secrets

Parallel SecretsAfter a young girl goes missing, former TV crime reporter Vicky Robeson joins the search with the help of her attractive new love interest.

They take his RV to a tiny town in rural Missouri that’s filled with odd characters and darker secrets.

But Vicky has secrets of her own. She believes this kidnapped girl may be linked to a case she reported on nine years ago, when a mystery child was found walking on levee, bloody and unable to speak. Back then, Vicky failed to follow up clues only she knew. Now, she has a chance to redeem herself.

As she uncovers secrets, it becomes clear someone will kill to keep them hidden.

To purchase Parallel Secrets click the following links: Amazon, Barnes & Noble.

Interview with ML Barrs, author of Parallel Secrets

Parallel Secrets features TV journalist Vicky Robeson. What would you like readers to know about Vicky?

Vicky is a sassy, tough, but inwardly tormented television journalist.

She was traumatized at an early age and has never fully dealt with her guilt stemming from that experience. She has trouble with personal relationships, though she cares about people. When she’s working on a story she is tenacious. She’s great at getting people to reveal their secrets but holds tight to her own.

Parallel Secrets takes place in the small town of Walkers Corner. Tell us about that community:

Walkers Corner is a fictional township in rural Missouri, the kind of place where everyone seems to have dark secrets.

It’s populated by odd characters, including those Vicky mentally dubs Mysterious Swamp Dude, Minnesota Man, and Suspicious Neighbor. It is located somewhere between St. Louis and Jefferson City. It’s had its economic ups and downs, but has a volunteer fire station, a thriving library, and a popular diner famous for cinnamon rolls with a secret ingredient.

What was your publishing journey like for your debut, Parallel Secrets?

It was not easy, at least in part because I assumed that since I’d written and edited news stories for decades, writing fiction would be easy. Ha! Just make stuff up!

My first experience with a professional editor was truly humbling. I had trouble accepting certain tenets of fiction, including the importance of clear Point of View (surely readers would follow along as I hopped from head to head). 

At first, I was determined that my protagonist, Vicky, would be everywoman—not a remarkably fit former FBI agent with an eidetic memory and flawed personality, not a surly detective with remarkable intuition and a drinking problem, etc.

Initially, Vicky was to be ‘normal’—emotionally healthy, average physique, etc.—just someone who was good at getting people to talk and at seeing connections others did not. As Vicky’s character evolved, however, it became increasingly obvious that her troubled past shaped her persona. She and her inner thoughts became more interesting.

And she still constantly battles a few extra pounds.

I began querying long before I had a good book. When I pitched agents in person and via letter, I was asked multiple times for more material, including the full manuscript. Some agents replied with rejection letters that were encouraging, others sent terse form letters, and many simply did not reply. My publisher, The Wild Rose Press, initially rejected my full manuscript but invited me to resubmit after I made a few (major) changes. I hired an editor, who pointed out not just flaws in my story but also opportunities to develop the plot and characters.

How did your background as a TV reporter impact Parallel Secrets? Did you draw on experience? Or have to make concessions for dramatic impact? Or both?

I absolutely drew on my experience in TV news.

I wanted to share with readers some of the struggles and tough decision-making journalists deal with on a daily basis. We tend to be characterized in popular fiction (and often in real life) as yammering hordes of biased, unscrupulous sneaks. In all my years in news, I worked with hundreds of smart, fair, thoughtful people who truly cared about the impact of what they do. 

I don’t think there’s anything in Parallel Secrets that couldn’t really happen. Bits of it actually did.

Your childhood was chaotic, with lots of moves, dropping out of high school, and period of homelessness. How did those early experiences change your view on what’s important in life?

Most important in my life are the people I love and who love me. I am blessed to have many of both. (It helps to start off with a huge family.)

I have no way of knowing what I would think or be like if I hadn’t had those experiences. Despite what in retrospect looks like (and was) my troubled early life, there are only a very few things I would do differently if I could go back and do-over.

Behaviors I learned as a child stayed with me and kept me on track. I learned the importance of integrity, to be responsible and respectful, to pay attention and listen carefully, to think, read, and learn, and the value of a good hug and laughter.   

What are you working on now?

The sequel to Parallel Secrets, which will be the second in a series featuring Vicky. There’s so much more to tell. As Vicky says, there’s always more to every story.

Words of Wisdom for Aspiring Writers:

Ha! Wisdom? For years, I wanted to write but didn’t because I was afraid I would fail. Then I wrote a scene or two, and line by line I grew more confident.

What little I know I learned the hard way, by making every mistake and violating every rule of story construction. English 101 was a long, long time ago. So write! Then write some more! Just type what you want to say. Pay no attention to what you’re ‘supposed to do.’ You can always go back and choose more fitting words, or reconstruct a sentence, or resolve a dangling plot element.

And pay attention to the advice of good writers and learn from how they write. Savor their sentences. Admire plot twists and settings that pull you into the story. Immerse yourself in your story, even if you don’t know where it’s going to take you. Enjoy the journey.

Author Pet Corner

We currently have no pets, but keep the birdbath and feeders full, and play host to a few larger creatures.

ML Barrs, author of Parallel Secrets

Parallel Secrets

A high school dropout at 15, ML Barrs started in TV as a ‘one-man-band’ reporter. She worked her way up to News Director at KDFW which, under her leadership, became the most successful news station in Dallas-Fort Worth, TX. She wrapped up her local TV career as General Manager at KXTV-TV in Sacramento, CA, and launched into writing mysteries.

Her debut novel, Parallel Secrets, is the first in a series featuring Vicky Robeson, a TV news journalist, travel writer, and fierce seeker of truth—who has trouble facing her own.

The oldest girl of 13 children born to the son of a coal miner and an immigrant from The Philippines, ML traveled the country with her family in a converted school bus. She called 19 places home by age 20. Her somewhat chaotic upbringing helped prepare her for the challenging world of TV news.

After 30-plus years covering stories—big or small, devastating or joyous, complicated or simple—she believes that everything comes down to understanding people. What drove her as a journalist is what drives her heroine, Vicky Robeson—a deep longing to find truth, and to understand why people make the choices they do.

To learn more about ML, follow at any of the following links: Website, Goodreads, Facebook, Instagram, X (formally known as Twitter)

Elena Taylor/Elena Hartwell

Header Image from Valentin from Pixabay

Elena Hartwell

Author and developmental editor.

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